Team Sky used to be fun.
Not fun in the classic sense – the spreadsheets and general relentlessness made sure of that – but in a we’ve-only-just-been-invented-and-now-we’re-going-to-win-le-Tour kind of way. They were underdogs. They seemed overly ambitious and destined to fall short.
Then they were rubbish for a bit – still fun. Then they did win the Tour, with a rider with massive sideburns and a nice side-line in aloof charisma, which was a tremendous amount of fun. But that turned out to be peak fun.Embed from Getty Images
From there it got more business-like.
They got a bit narky and fell out with each other. The whiter-than-white cleaner-than-clean began to wear thin. Some of us yearned for a bit less corporate-speak.
They acquired the best riders, paid them well, and took a vice-like grip on the Tour de France; at the time of writing they’ve snaffled seven of the last eight. In 2019 they signed a deal to become Team Ineos which, while there’s no evidence of the riders being personally responsible for the actual fracking, is not a good look.
Their squad, for 2020, will include the following:
Four separate Grand Tour winners; a former World Champion and multiple stage race, one-day classic, and Grand Tour stage winner; the best time triallist in the world by a country mile; the next great Colombian superstar since the last one (who they also have); the list goes on.
I understand cold, hard economic fact. I have a rough working knowledge of capitalism. I know that the pro-cycling business model is precarious and revolves around willing sponsors and media exposure. I am not, at the time of writing, suggesting revolution.
I am suggesting that packing a pro cycling team with the best talent money can buy and paying them well to be relentless is not fun. In fact it’s serious. Clinical, calculating, and unromantic.Embed from Getty Images
But they’re only doing their job. They can hardly justify doing a little less well, and being a little less competent, in the name of romance. The petrochemical industry would not stand for it.
It’s a results business, those of you with harder heads might say, why don’t you just roll up your yoga mat, finish your green tea, and bugger off back to happy la-la land, you might continue, slightly unreasonably.
But I’m a romantic. I’d still rather watch Thibaut Pinot agonisingly fail than Egan Bernal clinically succeed.